Crime & Justice

Panama indicts 2 ex-presidents for corruption

Panama City, Nov 8 (EFE).- Panamanian authorities plan to try 36 people, including former Presidents Ricardo Martinelli and Juan Carlos Varela for money laundering in connection with a corruption scandal involving the Brazilian construction giant formerly known as Odebrecht, EFE learned Tuesday.

Also named in the indictment seen by EFE are Martinelli’s sons, Ricardo Alberto and Luis Enrique, who are serving prison sentences in the United States after pleading guilty to accepting bribes from the Brazilian firm, which now calls itself Novonor.

Six Cabinet ministers from the administrations of Martinelli, who governed from 2009-2014, and Varela, his successor, likewise face trial.

Judge Baloisa Marquinez allowed the case against the 36 defendants to go forward, but threw out charges against one person and provisionally cleared 11 others.

Odebrecht paid “bribes left and right” to secure public works projects in Panama, according to prosecutor Mahmad Daud Hasan.

Odebrecht executives told Panamanian authorities that the multinational paid at least $59 million in bribes during Martinelli’s administration.

In July 2017, Odebrecht agreed to pay Panama $220 million in fines over the course of 12 years, but the Central American nation says that the firm is not living up to the accord.

Eight months earlier, Odebrecht and its petrochemical unit, Braskem, pleaded guilty to paying hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes to government officials to win business in Latin America and elsewhere.

Odebrecht specifically admitted to paying around $788 million as part of a bribery and bid-rigging scheme that began as far back as 2001.

As part of that settlement with authorities in the US, Brazil and Switzerland, the companies also agreed to pay a combined total penalty of at least $3.5 billion.

Martinelli, a 70-year-old supermarket magnate, was acquitted in 2019 in a case involving illegal spying on political opponents, journalists and business leaders.

The court concluded that the spying took place, but pointed to a lack of evidence directly linking the espionage to the then-president. EFE fa/dr

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